Sector aiming to reduce water use

This article explores the IWEX report's findings for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries

The IWEX report looks at the key issues and drivers in the management of water and wastewater for various industrial sectors. All statistics in this article refer to respondents to the survey and not the sector as a whole.

Chemical and pharmaceutical companies spend around 1% of turnover on water use. This is less than some sectors, such as brewing and food manufacture, but more than in the paper and pulp industry. However, spend on the management, treatment and disposal of wastewater, at 4.18% of turnover, is second only to brewing and food manufacture. In real terms, for the chemical industry, this represents a spend in the region of £1.66B.

In all, 18% of these companies expect to see an increase in water consumption next year and 6% expect a decrease. In terms of spend on wastewater, only 6% of chemical and pharmaceutical companies reported an rise. This implies a strong focus on innovation in this sector, to encourage more efficient water management through innovative technology and management techniques.

Ranked in order of importance, the sector's main priorities are reducing effluent strength, reducing water consumption, reducing the volume of effluent produced and reusing more water in industrial processes. The latter was a lower priority than in any other sector.

Interestingly, 82% of respondents said they knew enough companies and consultants to help them attain these goals, this is higher than any other sector and suggests chemical and pharmaceutical companies are engaged with the supply chain. This is borne out by the fact this sector spends 0.38% of its turnover specifically on water consultants, this is higher than most other sectors.

Nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said they felt suppliers were focusing on the needs of their industry, higher than any other sector, and a lower proportion of these companies were dissatisfied with suppliers or felt they were not in tune with their needs. Again a high proportion of these companies rated equipment suppliers as good and 12% rated them as excellent, compared to 3% in brewing/food manufacture and 0% in paper and pulp.

UK suppliers need to beware though, the size of companies in this sector means they are more likely than any other sector to be approached by overseas suppliers. The UK pharmaceutical industry remains among the most attractive European markets for investment and this too will lead to more opportunities for overseas suppliers.

Nearly a quarter of chemical and pharmaceutical companies said they enjoyed 'excellent' relationships with their water companies. This was the only sector that viewed the utilities so highly, with another 65% rating their undertaker as good or average.

A quarter of respondents expressed a desire for their water companies to provide more advice on reducing water bills. More companies in this sector (88%) have a water strategy than any other sector, and over half (53%) develop their strategies in-house. Though they do seek some advice externally, only 12% use specialist consultants when devising these strategies, as opposed to 21% in brewing and food manufacture and 35% in paper and packaging. The primary objectives of these companies' water strategies is the reduction of costs, improving product performance and improving environmental performance.

Of these organisations, 58% felt legislation has a strong impact on their business. This would explain why more than three quarters of these companies say they are up to speed with all the latest legislation, although over half felt legislation does not take into account the cost to business in time and money. Just over 40% felt greater consultation should take place when new legislation is developed.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of chemical and pharmaceutical companies said they are in direct contact with the policy makers - three times higher than for brewing or paper and nearly a quarter said their industry has a lot of influence over the legislators. This is because the size and economic clout of many of these organisations means the sector will inevitably hold a fair degree of sway with government.

The pharmaceutical industry is the second largest contributor to UK GDP and the chemical industry is one of the country's largest manufacturing sectors, with a turnover of £32B a year. Customers also have a bigger influence on water strategy than any other sector, as do communities living near plants and factories. This is because wastewater from these industries is potentially more environmentally damaging than for many other sectors. This would also explain why lawyers have more say in the development of water strategies in this sector, than in any other. The issues outlined in this article will be explored further in a series of industrial user seminars, which will take place at IWEX from October 18-20 at the NEC. These seminars, Water in Industry - Strategies for Manufacturers will focus on dealing with ways of reducing costs through waste minimisation and better use of water within the production process.


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